The Stories We Don’t Tell

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October 9, 2015 by T. Gregory Argall

Those of you that have been drawn into the inescapable swirling vortex of social media that is Facebook will find this familiar. Someone posts a picture of a famous painting or a superhero or a children’s TV show or a dog wearing human clothes and captions it with, “Click ‘like’ and I’ll assign you an artist/superhero/kid’s show/breed of dog dressed as a farmer. We’re doing this to combat all of the negative stories and images on Facebook.”
For a few days your newsfeed is filled with a slew of pictures following whatever theme made it to the top of the batting order that month.
And then it’s all forgotten and we go back to using “bitching about things” as the default stance for our status updates.

Some would suggest that as a society we just like bitching about things. It makes us feel better about ourselves when we can point out what’s wrong around us. What we don’t enjoy, however, is having to listen to (or read) others bitching about things. Their bitching is an infringement on our own bitching. It’s an… inbitchment.
Okay, maybe not so much with the new word, but the idea stands.

Last weekend, I posted this on Facebook:

I had to go get my OHIP photo card health card thingy this morning. I was dreading waiting in the endless line up so I brought a book to read while waiting.
I’d only got through two pages before it was my turn at the counter. The woman behind the counter had an actual smile, not the fake, forced smile I was expecting. She quickly took care of my paperwork while also managing to maintain a friendly conversation. We shared a laugh or two. She re-took my photo because the first one was slightly uncomplimentary and she didn’t want me to be stuck with that one on my ID card.
Overall it was a pleasant experience and I was home again in less than 45 minutes.
So, here’s the problem I have with that… How the hell can we make jokes about lazy government workers when they go and do stuff like that?
Mocking and ridiculing inefficient and apathetic government employees is one of the few joys we have left in life and now they have stolen that from us by being efficient and helpful and friendly. This is completely unacceptable.
Kinda nice,
though.”

Being an ironist, I framed it as a complaint for comedic purposes, but the point is I had a positive experience and chose to share it on Facebook anyway.
The really remarkable thing about it was the comments in response to my post. Many people said they had also had a similar experience in a government office. All in different locations and different departments, so it’s clearly not just a matter one lone nice person inexplicably working for the government. There are, apparently, several of them.

This surprised me at first. Why does such a negative interpretation of government workers persist if so many of them are the opposite? Then my friend Bill shared the tale of his weeks-long decent into hell while trying to navigate a government website in order to answer one simple question for his dad. The story was amusing and frustrating at the same time. It was… frustmusing.
Sorry, okay, no more new words. Probably.

So by Bill’s account the stereotype of government help being unhelpful seems valid, but Bill was also one of the people who had commented with a positive and cheerful experience in dealing one-on-one with someone at a government office.

I think the problem is people. People in groups.

 

I had gone in dreading the anticipated group of people I would have to deal with, and came away pleased with the individual person I had dealt with.
Online, or even just on the phone, you have to deal with a faceless collective entity. At the counter, face to face, you can talk to an individual. Individuals are awesome. They’re wonderful.
And, math be damned, I’d rather deal with a hundred individual persons than a single group of people.

But I was also concerned that there had been so many good experiences that no one talks about. It all comes back to how we just like to bitch. I had to frame my story as bitching just to get away with telling it. And then it turned out that others had similar stories to tell.

Well, let’s break the mold. All of us. I challenge you. At least once a week, try to find something positive or encouraging to post on Facebook.
The reason the “pretty pictures to combat negative images” things never last is because they are limited in concept and theme. They’re designed as a one-off. “I’ll post one picture, which will trigger each of you to post one picture and within a couple of days we’ve all posted one picture each and we’re done.”
Not this time.
Every week, share a smile-inducing story. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is. Eventually it will become a habit. Soon, you’ll be sharing positive things twice a week, then three times a week, then daily.
As a result, we might even become happier people in general.

Imagine that.
A happy group of people.

Try to be nice to each other.

tga

 

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